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Wuorinen / Brokeback Mountain [Blu-ray]
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Un opéra tiré de la nouvelle de Annie Proulx déjà adapté par Ang Lee au cinéma pour le film Brokeback Mountain récompensé aux Oscars. Brokeback Mountain, nouvelle écrite par Annie Proulx en 1997 puis adaptée au cinéma par Ang Lee, raconte la romance de deux cowboys dans les montagnes du Wyoming. Une relation interdite, destructrice mais flamboyante... une relation typique sur la scène d'un opéra en somme. C'est en partant de ce constat que Charles Wuorinen s'est lancé, à la demande de Gerard Mortier, dans l'adaptation lyrique de l'oeuvre. Epaulé par l'auteure originelle pour le livret et Ivo van Hove pour la mise en scène, le compositeur américain a souhaité une oeuvre sans sentimentalisme ou militantisme, toute tournée vers la dimension dramatique de la musique, du texte et de la mise en scène. L'erreur serait de penser que cet opéra est une simple transposition lyrique du film, l'équipe cherchant surtout à rester fidèle à la nouvelle et son atmosphère : la nature y est plus présente et menaçante, tout comme la pesanteur sociale. Les rôles titres sont tenus par le baryton Daniel Okulitch et le ténor Tom Randle, tous deux connus pour leur engagement scénique. Une création mondiale qui entre dans l'histoire du Teatro Real de Madrid.
Un opéra tiré de la nouvelle de Annie Proulx déjà adapté par Ang Lee au cinéma pour le film Brokeback Mountain récompensé aux Oscars. Brokeback Mountain, nouvelle écrite par Annie Proulx en 1997 puis adaptée au cinéma par Ang Lee, raconte la romance de deux cowboys dans les montagnes du Wyoming. Une relation interdite, destructrice mais flamboyante… une relation typique sur la scène d’un opéra en somme. C’est en partant de ce constat que Charles Wuorinen s’est lancé, à la demande de Gerard Mortier, dans l’adaptation lyrique de l’œuvre. Epaulé par l’auteure originelle pour le livret et Ivo van Hove pour la mise en scène, le compositeur américain a souhaité une œuvre sans sentimentalisme ou militantisme, toute tournée vers la dimension dramatique de la musique, du texte et de la mise en scène. L’erreur serait de penser que cet opéra est une simple transposition lyrique du film, l’équipe cherchant surtout à rester fidèle à la nouvelle et son atmosphère: la nature y est plus présente et menaçante, tout comme la pesanteur sociale. Les rôles titres sont tenus par le baryton Daniel Okulitch et le ténor Tom Randle, tous deux connus pour leur engagement scénique. Une création mondiale qui entre dans l’histoire du Teatro Real de Madrid. - Opéra en 2 actes et 22 scènes --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition DVD.Voir l'ensemble des Descriptions du produit
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C'est Annie Proulx elle-même, que l'on sait très réservée sur le film d'Ang Lee, qui a accepté d'écrire le livret, ce qui permet de vérifier, d'une part, qu'un écrivain éblouissant (et on sait à quel point l'auteure de Nœuds et Dénouements, de Cartes Postales ou des Crimes de l'Accordéon peut l'être) n'est pas forcément une dramaturge ou une librettiste accomplie, et d'autre part, que l'écriture d'un livret d'opéra conduit forcément, du fait des conventions et du rythme particuliers au théâtre - et a fortiori au théâtre chanté- à une refonte totale du texte original, une brève, rude et lapidaire nouvelle tirée du recueil "Les pieds dans la Boue".Lire la suite ›
Que de plaisir à une histoire d'amour unique dans son genre...
Et à part ça ? A part ça c'est ennuyeux pédant et lourdaud....
Quitte à faire dans le joyeux drille gai, préférez Jacques Charon dans Molière, Poiret et Serrault dans la Cage au Folle , Le Légionnaire dans les "Tontons" voire Laurent Ruquier dans"ONPC", "les Grosses Têtes"...Là on rit...
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Earlier I'd read an in depth review for the DVD of this opera, its critic asking if a composer known primarily for writing "dense, angular, and discordant music," could adapt his style to fit this story. His response was a resounding, "no," citing a complete lack of tenderness or warmth between the two central characters.
Today I watched the DVD of Wuorinen's opera, and must admit to feeling quite differently from what I'd read. This may be, at least in part, because I didn't feel it necessary for the composer to adapt his style for any reason; this is the musical language in which he speaks, and speaks it very well.
Despite the romance at its heart, I don't see Brokeback Mountain as "just" a gay love story, and while I admired Mr. Lee's film, feel Proulx's story to be more of a period piece, set in a time not long ago where being queer could (and obviously did) get people killed.
These two men (particularly Ennis) live in perpetual fear of being discovered resulting in a chilling denial of who they are. They inhabit a world that, more frequently than not, terrifies the hell out of them. Wuorinen captures this world, as well as these boys and their emotions, with chilling conviction and expressiveness.
Where Jack (a marvelous portrayal from Tom Randle) imagines the pair of them starting a life and owning a ranch together, Ennis is paralyzed by his fears to the point of inaction, and watches his life dissolve before him, impotent, angered and rendered incapable of doing anything about it. Again, Wuorinen's score conveys all of this, cutting brilliantly to the bone with an appropriate, tragic gravitas.
I've read assertions the creators do not allow us to witness any tenderness between the two men, either musically or dramatically. I disagree. To cite one example; their last night on the mountain opens with Jack standing alone, Ennis coming up from behind him, enveloping him in his arms, singing tenderly (including part of his wordless vocalise heard earlier). Here, he expresses his disappointment at having to leave Jack for the mountaintop, before being convinced to spend their one last night together. The staging here makes for great theatre and is filled with symbolic implications for all. We watch as the tent is lifted off of them as the stage transforms into the almost disjointed jumble that will be their lives for the next four years (and much of the rest of the opera).
While the score is typically angular and frequently dense, Wuorinen does provide beautiful moments to break up the harshness. Some feel such moments are too few, but they serve precisely what the composer and Ms. Proulx saw as their project, which is a different beast than the touching film from Mr. Lee. It is much closer to the author's original short story, which will not sit well for those who prefer the film's sentimentality. One of those moments is Jack and Ennis' final meeting, infinitely touching, as we witness frustration, grow into anger before transforming into an ultimate sense of foreboding; the realization that grief and continued loneliness shall be their only future they may share. Here, orchestra, singers, staging and libretto come together so masterfully I confess, I was, as Ennis later admits, choked with love." It's what (for me) opera is all about.
The remaining (rather large) cast, are fully committed to their (often) minor roles, with Heather Buck standing out as Ennis' young, frustrated wife, who over the course of their marriage reaches the point of no return. It's a tough sing with a lot of high notes and almost from the beginning, a fever pitch intensity. As Lureen Hannah Esther Minutillo, has a sometimes oddly accented English, but convey's her characters coolness and ambition convincingly. With probably the least amount of stage time, Jane Henschel turns in a touching portrayal of Jack's mother, her cameo feeling like a genuine star turn.
The final scene finds Ennis, alone at at the mountain, caressing their two shirts which Jack had secretly held onto for 20 years, pouring out his grief, admitting his great love, was emotionally shattering. You sense this man will be alone for whatever days he has left, the sentiment confirmed by his closing line, as those two shirts, along with any dreams or hopes, float away, upwards towards the peaks. "It was only you in my life, and it will always be only you. Only you. Jack, I swear." Here, after listening to all the density of orchestral layers building on top of one another, Wuorinen wisely ends the opera, with Jack holding one final, unaccompanied, ending his opera in silence. The effect is heartbreaking storytelling of the first order.
Towards the end of the review I'd earlier mentioned, its author of wrote:
"Thus, we are left with the message that love between men is no different from an encounter in a rough-n-ready porn flick, where grunts, slaps and lots of gritty sounds take the place of warmth, tenderness, and open-hearted embrace."
I felt no "porn" sensibility of any stripe at play here, the gentleness expressed between the dual protagonists being felt throughout the opera, a shocking counterpoint against the brutality of their realities. That warmth extended, too, through the final curtain as Mr. Okulitch, basking in a sea of applause, awaits his partner to join him, the two sharing a big embrace (how often do we see artists hugging during bows?) and a warm ovation.
I can see how Wuorinen's score, led here by Titus Engel, might be tough for some audiences to warm up to, but it is, in its often brutal way, beautiful, with the sense of the mountain felt strongly through the entire opera. .
I'd like to believe this score, and this fascinating production by Ivo van Hove, will be seen again on other stages, but whether that happens or not, am grateful for the commitment of Mr. Mortier the Teatro Real for producing it and the resultant DVD.
Hours later, I'm still a bit rattled by the experience, something I find the best art always does.
I will say that virtually everything here that could vary from one production to another is quite good. Charles Wourinen's BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN was well served by the team assembled to give its 2014 world premiere for the Teatro Real de Madrid. Conductor Titus Engel's leadership of the orchestra is fluent and pointed; the playing does justice to the music's moods and colors. The staging by director Ivo van Hove finds an effective balance between realism and abstraction. There are striking scenic projections, and interiors are realistically evoked, but sometimes we are looking at two homes at once on a divided stage. The two parties in an important phone call near the end are at opposite ends of the stage until one walks across to deliver her last lines at close range (symbolically). Van Hove has a good eye for behavioral detail, and everywhere in the performances of his actors there is evidence of his good communication. Costumes and lighting are in good hands, as is video direction.
Bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch (Ennis) and tenor Tom Randle (Jack) give truthful and brave singing/acting performances as the central couple. The same could be said for soprano Heather Buck as Ennis's wife, Alma, who is a less sympathetic character here than in the film, getting her share of shrill vocal writing. A new first scene in a dress shop seems calculated to establish her as materialistic and impractical. In the less focal role of Jack's wife, Lureen, Czech-born mezzo Hannah Esther Minutillo sounds to be getting through her part phonetically. This stands out within a predominantly English-speaking cast; the others make their words very clear. Smaller parts are well taken, and there are potent cameos in the final scene by tenor Ryan MacPherson and mezzo Jane Henschel as Pa and Ma Twist. Ms. Henschel in particular is very touching, making a lot of little, suggesting a great deal seen and just as much unspoken.
Unfortunately, what we have here is a strong performance of an opera that is not very good. Wourinen's music plucks and drones away for 130 minutes without adding up to much other than craggy texture. I would say it sounds like lesser Berg, but there is no Berg this lesser. Worse is the libretto by Annie Proulx, the author of the much-praised 1997 short story that started it all. We hear a good deal from her and others in the bonus material about the offending sentimentality of Ang Lee's beloved 2005 film version. It is surprising, then, that Proulx's own adaptation takes the material even further in that direction. There are lines here more mawkish and overexplicit than anything in the Oscar-winning screenplay by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana. Proulx's dialogue in her stories and novels tends toward the terse and elliptical. Here, with the responsibility of giving singers things to sing, she struggles to open it out, and the struggle shows. It is a bit embarrassing to see characters leading the audience by the nose through themes and ideas the author wishes to dramatize, and to know that these words were a Pulitzer winner's doing (in an early scene at the campsite, Jack gazes in Ennis's direction and twice sings the line "I can see his fire burning," and this is one of the subtler metaphors). A central conceit is the mysterious power the mountain of the title exerts over the protagonists. The mountain looks very forbidding in the projections, Wourinen gives it an ominous recurring theme in the orchestra, and there is talk about it that seems more appropriate to a horror story like THE SHINING (a contralto bartender warns Jack and Ennis early on that other men have come down from the mountain crazy). If the idea is that the mountain brought about the 20-year relationship that follows, I have to say it falls flat. Proulx fails to convince me that this same story could not have taken place if Jack and Ennis had gotten to know each other in any setting of prolonged isolation, for example, a remote military outpost or even a jail cell. Too, the opera gives no suggestion of the passage of time, as there was in the film. Van Hove's production eschews literal aging effects. Title cards cue us to the passage of decades along the way, but Jack and Ennis end as they began, looking and acting neither very young nor very old.
Gerard Mortier, an administrator of Flemish descent, originally commissioned this opera in 2007. At that time, he was general director of the financially troubled New York City Opera, which was slated to give the world premiere. By the time the opera was completed, NYCO's proud 70-year run had come to an end. Mr. Mortier had long since resigned his post in any case, but he had taken the project with him to Madrid. This opera he championed and shepherded (no pun intended) through two companies and seven years became his last legacy. Mr. Mortier died of pancreatic cancer on 8 March 2014, about six weeks after the first performance of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. In light of these circumstances, the talent and hard work on display, and the timely and very operatic source material, the Wourinen/Proulx BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN seems a missed opportunity. It was politely received by its first audiences. Operatic crib deaths usually are.